Last week, I learned “At Ease”. For some, “At Ease” is an easy place to be. Historically, I have not been one of those individuals.
I was trained to be a good planner. It was in my family’s DNA (dad was an engineer). The high school curriculum included planning wherever possible and certainly within the time management and “How to Succeed” courses. Planning was a skill taught throughout my years in business and technology.
At each stage, I learned to think about what might happen and to check out possibilities and contingencies. I created the ability to run scenarios in my head and on excel spreadsheets. I was adept at developing timetables.
As in most areas of our lives where we pay attention, I got better with experience. With success, reinforcement appeared through kudos, hugs, promotions and raises. With failures – when things really went beyond the worse of my wildest imagination – I added more capability to my toolkit.
I must confess that these skills were handy to have and transferred easily between family and work. For example, when my daughter was small, my purse carried everything imaginable that she might need. Now that she is grown, we laugh when she asks if I have something in my purse – like chapstick (she uses and I don’t), Cheerios (her favorite snack), or a mirror (to check mascara). Throughout my business career, at the end of every month, my status report (whether as a systems analyst or a CEO) reported what was going on, what might be happening, and what we were planning on doing as a result.
As we know through experience, irrespective of our best planning and plans, life has its own flow. What do we do, then?
First, be “At Ease”. Take a breath. Take the next step. Then, see what happens. Flow between “At Ease” and planning.
This revelation came last week – compliments of my laptop.
On this particular evening, I had been teaching a class at Georgia Tech and had taken my dandy new laptop. When I returned home, I went to use my computer only to find that I didn’t have it. My breath stopped as I realized I had been so busy talking to the students, I left it in the classroom.
In that instant, my analytical and planning training kicked-in and I watched a flood of questions roll through my thoughts. I re-lived the past couple of hours (“how I could have forgotten it?” and positing “only if” scenarios). I wondered if I would get the computer back and if not, what I would do. And, I began putting plans in place for the future (“I will pay more attention next time”, “Maybe I will leave my computer home next time”, “Remember backups!”).
Fortunately, a calm, at-ease voice appeared and reminded me that the most likely scenario was that the computer was found by the students and was safe. In that case, all I needed to do was to go back to the school, find the students and get my computer.
The adrenalin-induced internal planner shifted – calmer now, but not for long. The inner planner blew up another storm of “what-ifs” and urgency. So I took a deep breath and created space for the calm, at-ease voice to be heard, once again.
I got in the car and became centered in “At Ease” by focusing on the traffic. I promised myself to watch my speed and to leave the horn, silent for slower drivers.
As I entered the parking garage, the plan careening in my head, I pulled into the first parking spot I saw. As I got out of the car, two students walked down the ramp and we immediately recognized each other – they had been in the class. In a matter-of-fact voice, one of the students asked “Did you leave your computer in the classroom?” “Yes”, I replied as calmly as I could.
After a few moments of conversation, they offered to accompany me into the school building – they knew who had found the computer. As the three of us came out of the parking garage and walked toward the building, another student approached us. He saw me and asked “Did you leave your computer in the classroom?” “Yes”, I replied, this time with joy and relief. He said he had the computer and it was safe in his locker. The four of us walked to the school building, in easy conversation, and retrieved my computer.
In this, one evening, in the fall of 2011, the universe, in its wisdom, reminded me of the power of “At Ease”. I could not have planned for the computer to be forever safe or for the students to so easily walk across my path. Some aspects of our lives are purely magical – “At Ease” allows the magic to appear. Planning and action allows us to co-create with the magic.
As I drove home for the second time that evening, the knowing of life’s magic embraced me as I remembered the gifts that come to me easily every day – breath and life, my daughter, nourishing food, the community and world we all share. And in that breath, “At Ease” settled into me.